What Are Your Options for Missing Teeth?
Missing teeth: feels like a tragedy and, unless they’re molars, looks like a tragedy too.
But it’s not just about an ugly gap between otherwise healthy teeth.
There are multiple downsides to missing teeth besides aesthetics, so – spoiler alert – not replacing missing teeth and leaving a gap is not an option (more on that down below).
At the same time, it’s not always easy to tell what you should do with missing teeth.
Naturally, a great place to start is to call your dentist, but it helps to know what your options are beforehand.
With that in mind, let’s review your missing teeth options: the good, the better, and the fabulous.
When you’re missing only one tooth, a single dental implant is, more often than not, the best restorative option for you.
They look and feel like real teeth and, provided you look after them, single-implant dentures can last a lifetime.
These implants are made from titanium or titanium alloys, so they’re a tough nut to crack.
In general, dental implants require some bone to be present, enough to install a screw-like implant that’s capped with a crown.
First, we extract the damaged root. Once the root’s gone, we drill a hole into the jawbone.
Then, we implant a titanium prosthetic root (also known as a post) deep into the bone.
From there, we fit the top part with a crown, but not ‘til the bone has started to grow around the post, securing it in place.
The next phase takes place a few months down the line (the post has to be ready to receive an abutment – the piece to which the crown will be fitted).
To conclude the treatment, we attach the new crown — the artificial tooth we make to match the surrounding teeth — to the abutment.
And, there you go, with an artificial tooth that’s everything real teeth dream to be when they grow up.
- Look & feel like real teeth;
- A permanent solution that requires no check-ups or replacements;
- Easy to eat & chew with;
- Easy to maintain;
- Prevents bone loss from missing teeth.
- Not the cheapest option out there;
- The full treatment takes three (lower jaw) to six (upper jaw) months to complete.
All-On-X dentures are prosthetic teeth, comparable to single-implant dentures in more ways than one.
They’re made from the same material (titanium or titanium alloy) and are very much permanent as well.
The biggest difference between the two is that All-On-X dentures don’t require any bone. In other words, you can install these regardless of what condition your mouth is in.
Dentures are usually kept in place with adhesives or suction. That being said, these days, you can also fix dentures (partial or full) into position with dental implants.
Because using one implant per tooth is inefficient when the patient is missing multiple teeth, we use the so-called All-On-4 dental implants.
But since the required implant count depends on the patient, we like to call them All-On-X dental implants instead.
You’d be surprised, sometimes it’s not exactly more than three but less than five missing teeth.
Before these dentures are made, we always take an impression of the gums and study your bite and jaw alignment. In doing so, we make sure you can chew and speak with the new dentures the way you did before – with comfort, confidence, and poise, of course.
- The more affordable option;
- Prevents the teeth from shifting;
- Improves chewing & speech;
- Easy to fix & replace;
- Easy to replace more teeth (should you happen to lose more in the future).
- Can feel a little uncomfortable at first;
- A bit awkward to maintain (because they aren’t individual teeth).
Unlike dental implants that replace the root, dental bridges replace just the teeth, so they don’t fuse with the jawbone. These replacement teeth sit on the gums, anchored in place with crowns placed on two or more surrounding teeth.
Like dental implants, dental bridges can replace a single tooth or multiple missing teeth.
Because they don’t integrate with the jawbone, dental bridges entail a less invasive and less complicated procedure than dental implants.
But the same procedure also makes them slightly less long-lasting and reliable as compared to dental implants.
- No surgery or bone grafting is required;
- Covered by insurance more often than not;
- Usually done in two visits.
- Have to be replaced every 5-10 years;
- More likely to invite cavities and tooth decay to the surrounding teeth;
- Natural appearance degrades with time.
Leaving a Gap: Not an Option
As much as you might dread visiting a dentist, failing to replace missing teeth is never a good idea.
The thing is, there’s a fine-tuned balance to your teeth’s position. They don’t erupt and drift backward and forward thanks to the pressure that the adjacent and opposing teeth apply to each other.
But, when one or more teeth are missing, the jaw lacks that opposing force every time you bite. So, because that opposing force is now gone, nothing is stopping adjacent teeth from drifting into the new gap.
And the headaches and jaw joint issues that always come with it in the future are just not worth it.
The Best Missing Teeth Option?
It depends on your needs and preferences.
But, because dental bridges don’t last as long as dentures, we would recommend choosing between single-implant (if you’re missing one tooth) or All-On-X (if you’re missing multiple teeth) dentures.
On that note, Dr. T. Lance Collier is an expert dentist who has ample experience with dentures. He believes that everyone deserves a gorgeous smile, and it’s his artistic touch and engineering background that always make these smiles a reality.
Dr. Collier and our team will happily work with you to decide on the best solution for you.
T. Lance Collier, DMD, LLC is located in Columbus, GA, and serves patients from surrounding communities, including Phenix City, Midland, Pine Mountain, Hamilton, West Point, Valley, Ft Mitchell, Buena Mista, Cataula, Ft Benning, Crawford, Salem, Smiths, LaGrange, Auburn, Opelika, Harris County, and Seale.